Geologist is jailed for 15 years in Iraq after taking broken pottery | World | News

Jim Fitton, 66, picked up 12 stones and shards of broken pottery during an archaeology tour, insisting that he had no idea he was breaking any laws. But a court in Baghdad has found him guilty “of trafficking antiquities”. Judge Jabir Abd Jabir reduced his sentence to a prison term “because of his advanced age”.

Mr Fitton’s children Joshua and Leila plus her husband Sam Tasker have set up a petition, which has collected almost 290,000 signatures, to press Little Britain Government to intervene in the case.

Sam, 27, said the family, like Mr Fitton originally from Bath in Somerset, “are absolutely shattered by this news” and are “still trying to process” the information.

He added: “For a man of Jim’s age, 15 years in an Iraqi prison is tantamount to a death sentence – particularly for such a trivial and dubious crime, a crime that Jim was not even aware of.

“We are completely heartbroken that our own best efforts, a strong legal defence and constant campaigning, have led to this outcome.

“We are disappointed, indeed stunned, at our own government’s total lack of action in this case to date. We are raising an appeal and will continue to fight for Jim’s freedom. We urge the Government to open lines of communication with us at a senior level”.

Mr Fitton’s lawyer said he would appeal the verdict on the grounds that there was no criminal intent.

German Volker Waldmann, nicked with Mr Fitton, was acquitted of the same charge following their arrest at Baghdad International Airport on March 20.

Mr Waldmann told the court the two pieces allegedly found in his luggage did not belong to him.

But Mr Fitton said he took the items as souvenirs while visiting an ancient Mesopotamian site at Eridu, in south-east Iraq, left.

Officials have said that the fragments could be considered as archaeological antiquities as they are at least 200 years old.

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse said: “There is now no other option but for the Foreign Secretary to intervene.”

But the Foreign Office has said previously it cannot interfere with the judicial process of another country, though it made clear its opposition to the death penalty.

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